WOODSTOCK – As area gardeners prepare for growing season, folks at Kolze’s Corner Gardens of Woodstock are planting a seed that they hope will really take off.
Actually, the idea’s been around since the Garden Writers Association launched it in 1995. But Kolze’s greenhouse manager Brian Moxley and owner Bob Kolze aim to help it take root in McHenry County. It’s called Plant a Row for the Hungry – a simple idea with boundless prospects.
Anyone who gardens is being asked to plant an extra row of vegetables for distribution to area food pantries, where fresh produce generally is scarce.
“This is our first year doing this,” Moxley said. “Obviously we want people to come check out our greenhouses and find out what we’re all about. But what I’m really excited about is we’re going to be able to help the surrounding communities.”
Kolze’s is located at Dean Street and Route 176, just west of Route 47. Surrounded by young plants and hanging baskets in one of the business’ vast greenhouses, Moxley recently talked about the initiative.
“What we’re encouraging, besides the usual tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini, is to grow things that have more sustainability, like potatoes and squash,” said Moxley, of Woodstock. “The first step is getting the word out.”
Not only will Kolze’s customers encounter signs, anyone buying vegetables to plant also will learn of Plant a Row from Kolze’s staff. During the summer and fall, Kolze’s also will be a gathering and distribution point, Moxley said.
“Most food pantries are open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If you’re a homeowner and you work, how are you going to get the vegetables there?” Moxley said. “We’re going to ask people to bring their surplus to us and we’ll distribute it to food pantries.”
Beginning the second or third week of April, Kolze’s will be open seven days a week. Drop-offs will be welcomed during business hours, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily in April and, starting in May, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends.
Moxley said he believes a goal of 10,000 pounds of fresh produce is not unreasonable.
Bob Kolze, son of Bob Kolze Sr. and owner of Kolze’s since 2003, said he heard about Plant a Row while attending a January symposium.
“We have all of these customers who love to grow plants,” Kolze said. “I just thought, ‘Get ’em going.’ People want to do good things.”
Cate Williams, president of the Crystal Lake Food Pantry, said such an initiative is sure to be welcome by any benefiting pantries. The Crystal Lake pantry currently assists 780 families totaling about 4,300 people each month, she said.
“We’re always so honored that someone would take the time to do just a little bit more for someone in need,” she said. “Those fresh fruits and vegetables are such a huge complement to the canned and the packaged goods.”